Your credit score means more than you probably realize.

Your credit score is a three-digit number associated with your personal credit history – typically ranging from 300-850 as generated by FICO, the most-used credit score in the United States.

Couple sitting down with a financial planner

This personal three-digit number affects financing cars, homes and student loans. Your score also helps determine your insurance premiums, job opportunities and even places to rent!


INB Bloomington Mortgage Lender Allison Bond, NMLS# 1879998, says to think about it this way: Would you personally lend $100 to someone who has a history of not paying it back or to someone who pays it back on time every time?

“Credit score and history impacts your ability to borrow money because it is a rating of your trustworthiness and financial fitness,” she shares. “The Ability to Repay is the key thing that is measured based on your credit.”

Take Control of Your Credit Score

Information like location, age, race, income, marital status and employment don’t affect your credit score. So what does? A number of factors, including:

● your payment history,
● how much you owe on your accounts,
● length of credit history,
● types of credit you are using,
● new credit such as credit inquiries or recently opened accounts.

Things you do – or don’t do – also impact your credit. Any late payment can hurt your credit score, as well as credit card balances near the limits, too many credit cards, collections, closing credit cards, and the list goes on. And if there’s no activity that affects your score, you can totally LOSE your score, (though it only takes as little as six months to rebuild it).

To make things even harder, your credit score can change each day, week, month and year because it is constantly being updated.

So, What Can You Do?

The most crucial thing you can do is to know exactly how much debt you have, according to Allison.

“It’s so common for consumers to pile up debt – especially credit cards – and not realize how much they truly owe until they already feel like they’re under water,” she says.

Once you’re fully aware of what your debt looks like, you can take steps to create or maintain a good score or improve a less than stellar score:

  • Pay your bills on time. This will always be key to maintaining a good score! If you currently have a low score, Allison advises to “get to as close to a ‘clean slate’ as possible.”

“Pay off your collections, pay off the balances of every account you had late payments on in the past and then do not use them again and wait for them to close (right away if they’re a loan, in time if a credit card),” she says.

  • Don’t get any new credit when you are planning to apply for a loan. And INB Springfield Mortgage Lender Corey Kates, NMLS# 1652367, advises to make sure that credit card balances are at or below 30% of the credit limit, if possible.

“Even if you’re paying credit card balances on time every month, having balances over 30% will actually be classified as overutilized in the eyes of the credit bureaus,” Corey says. “If there are multiple credit cards overutilized, it could hinder your credit score by as much as 50-60 points, which might negatively influence your interest rate.”

  • Start building or improving your credit score slowly. If you’re young without credit experience and unable to qualify for a traditional credit card, you might consider opening a secured credit card, says Justin Coy, INB consumer loan underwriter.

“The way this usually works is: you deposit some money with the creditor to act as collateral against the charges you make with the card, and then once you no longer need it, you can close the account and get your deposit back,” Justin says. “This is a great way to prove you’re trustworthy if you’re just starting out.”

  • Check your credit report regularly. Your report shows things like how many credit cards and loans you have, whether you pay your bills on time, and whether any debts have been turned over to collections.

If you find mistakes, that could be an error from a business that reports credit information or even a sign of identity theft. Those mistakes, like accounts or bankruptcies that aren’t yours, can hurt your credit, increase how much you’ll have to pay to borrow money, and even derail your chances of getting a loan or insurance.

 How Do I Check My Credit Report and Find My Credit Score?

As of 2023, the three national credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — have permanently extended a program that lets you check your credit report at each of the agencies once a week for free.

Visit to request free copies of your credit reports.

What Now?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone.

“My best advice to raise your score if it’s low is to consult with a professional,” Allison suggests. “Whether you see a mortgage loan officer if your goal is to buy a house or a credit counselor, everyone’s credit rating and history is very different, and each person will need a strategy that works best for them.”

When you need to boost your credit score, give our financial experts a call at INB. We’d be glad to work with you to take steps to improve your credit so you can buy that car or get into your dream home!